A Birmingham law firm whose computers were hacked, resulting in the loss of a vital legal aid contract, has won a landmark High Court battle.
Mushtaq & Co, based in Bristol Street, said it missed out on the contract after its electronic application form was ‘mysteriously altered’.
It launched a legal battle against the Legal Services Commission (LSC) after it was told the matter was closed and nothing could be done about it,
Defending the action the LSC said it “was obliged to treat all bidders equally”. It added that it had issued 2,100 legal aid contracts starting from April, and that Mushtaq & Co’s complaint was the only one of this type.
The dispute revolved around the answer to one crucial question, with the Birmingham firm claiming its electronic application was hacked and its answer changed.
It said despite putting down that it has a Birmingham office, it was turned down because the application form said it did not.
It meant the firm, which deals in family and criminal law, was ruled out of the running for the right to handle family and child protection cases in the city.
Head of the company Rifat Mushtaq said the form was completed correctly on October 17 last year but was altered without her knowledge a day later.
The matter was finally decided in a Judicial Review in the High Court in Birmingham on March 15 which found in Mushtaq & Co’s favour.
The firm was represented by David Lock QC from Birmingham’s No5 Chambers, who argued that its computer account with the LSC was hacked and changes made to the account with the LSC by a third party.
Criminal enquiries into the hacking matter are pending.
Sitting in the High Court Mr Justice Bean said he did not agree with the Legal Services Commission’s argument.
He discussed the matter with Legal Services Commission chiefs and, in light of the provisional indication that Mr Justice Bean had found for Ms Mushtaq, the LSC accepted its decision should be quashed and agreed to reconsider Mushtaq & Co’s tender.
Speaking outside the High Court following the case, Ms Mushtaq said: “Thankfully common sense has prevailed. I knew my account had been hacked but the LSC refused to believe me.”